~ by Corinne Muffly, Educator ~
A series of articles dedicated to helping parents find places and activities on Nantucket to enjoy with their children.
The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association has so much to offer our small community. MMA utilizes Nantucket as a natural laboratory by providing others with experiences and education about our environment: our home. Maria Mitchell was an astronomer, a scientist, & an educator. The MMA was built to honor her many contributions to Nantucket while encouraging exploration and education, but most importantly, enjoyment.
I recently registered for the Feeding Frenzy at the little Maria Mitchell Aquarium on Washington Street. I highly recommend this excursion for all ages. Even my little guy was attentive as the various species of sea creatures circled about in their tanks. It is imperative that you register in advance because there are only about 15 available spaces due to the rather petite size of the aquarium. The excursion itself is 45 informative minutes long and only $12 for non-members like myself.
The aquarium consists of a touch-and-feel tank, two rooms with large tanks full of everything from fish, to crabs, to squid, to one beautiful lobster by the name of Clementine. In the back there is a sizeable viewing tank with lots of animals like dogfish sharks, horseshoe crabs, flounder, skate, and some other aggressive species of fish I avoided. All of the fish in the aquarium were actually caught on Nantucket – even the tropical ones! Most of the sea creatures are brought to the aquarium by local fishermen and will be released at the end of the season.
Our guide was an enthusiastic marine biologist with a wealth of knowledge about each and every species throughout the aquarium. I learned a lot of new information during this activity, which makes it perfect for all ages. Viewing pleasures for some and educational for others. The experience was very hands-on allowing the children to participate in feeding certain fish. The tour began at the touch and feel tank with a little guided discovery of the species within.
We dried off and entered the south room with all sorts of beautiful living things. The guide fed some rather aggressive crabs to kick off the feeding frenzy. Across the hall was aroom which contained tropical species & jellyfish. My favorite was a tiny solitary trunkfish that just so happen to have a tank to itself due to a toxic substance secreted from its skin. Soon after, our tour concluded at the captivating viewing tank. I am convinced the baby dogfish shark wanted to come home with me as it continued to fervently eject its head from the water, taunting me.
There continue to be new and ever changing species at the MMA Aquarium. I look forward to returning and discovering more.
Living on Nantucket, being surrounded by many of the species within the aquarium daily, made me realize that I, at times, take living here for granted. It was truly fascinating to watch, feed, and learn about the animals that inhabit our harbor and our oceans.